Beyond Layoff—Reinventing Yourself for Success
Going through a layoff is hard, but not necessarily bad. It can be a time for you to reinvent yourself to reach bigger goals.
I got laid off. After 9 years of working with the world’s largest oil and gas service company, I got a call one afternoon and an hour later, I was jobless. Though my circumstances were such that the layoff didn’t come as a surprise to me, the call was not any less painful. I suddenly felt empty. It felt that with the job, my identity was taken away. Schlumberger was the only company I had worked for as an intern, and as a full-time professional. I associated my self-worth with my work and it was where I felt most competent and in control.
I cried that week. But as the tears fell down, the weight from my shoulders lifted. I had bubbled myself up in my comfort zone, refusing to consider that there is a career and life beyond my recent employer. I had been looking at my situation through a micro lens, though in reality, it was just an event in a life-long career. It was time for me to reinvent myself to reach bigger goals.
If, like me, you have been recently pushed into the job market, naturally you may feel tempted to jump full force into job search mode. However, before doing so, I encourage you to follow three steps that will help you turn your layoff situation into an opportunity that brings you long-lasting career success.
Step #1: Reflect
The first step is to take stock. Find some quiet time and reflect upon your past employment. Questions you may want to ask yourself are:
Were you happy in your job?
Did you enjoy what you did at work?
Did you wake up excited and ready to face the challenges of the day?
Did you have a healthy work/life balance?
If you are getting mixed feelings, reflect upon why that’s the case. Personally, this introspection helped me realize that because I was comfortable with the people I worked with, I was refusing to accept that my current career path no longer aligned with my long-term professional goals.
How about the industry that you were in? Did you see yourself growing and building a life-long career within your industry? If the answer to the above questions is a strong yes, it is an exciting realization and you must feel proud for finding your niche. You can start connecting with other great organizations in your industry that will value your experience and skill set. But if not, it’s time to take stock of your transferable skills and think about which other roles, functions, and industries they add value to.
Step #2: Skill-up
Currently, hiring for traditional functional streams in the oil and gas industry is low and will most likely continue to be so until the oil price environment rebounds and this cycle concludes. As a result of this, staying relevant in the current market situation means being open to accepting that the skills that brought us success thus far may not be the ones that carry us forward. With the oil and gas industry moving fast toward digitalization, those who can combine their domain expertise with the ability to assimilate data will have the strongest chance at success. For some, being relevant will also mean changing industries altogether.
Learn about what skills are highly valued in your area of interest. After those have been assessed, skill-up or if needed, re-skill by taking relevant online coursework on learning platforms like Udemy, Coursera, and LinkedIn Learning. These platforms offer a variety of courses, certificates, and also degrees that can be accomplished at your preferred pace. Highly ranked universities, Stanford, Yale, UPenn, to name a few, also offer relevant free online courses. Learn about their portfolio and decide what works best for you. There is also no shame in taking up contractor work, or even an unpaid internship to get some on-the-job training in the new functional area or industry. Finally, if your financial circumstances allow, consider going back to school and earning a degree.
Step #3 Network
Networking remains the No.1 way to land a job, and with fewer positions opening up during the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of networking should not be underestimated.
In parallel to skilling up, start leveraging the network of your family and friends. Request referrals for job openings so your resume stands a higher chance of making it to the hiring manager. Also, ask for help with making introductions to people who work at companies where you would like to get a job. Talking to the current employees is sometimes the best way to learn about what it’s like working in a particular industry or if a particular company will be a mutual fit. Leave shyness aside and request them for a 15-minute chat over the phone to learn about their experience and how you can make your résumé stronger.
Going through a layoff is hard, but not necessarily bad. Oftentimes succumbing to the emotions can feel like the safest place to be but restarting with small goals and following the steps mentioned above will allow you to begin your journey into the next best thing. Those who succeed in the aftermath of layoff are certainly the ones with a positive attitude, the humility to reskill, and the courage to put themselves out in the world again.